By Wezi Tjaronda
More than 20 institutions, mostly non-governmental organisations and a UN agency, have declared their premises gun-free zones as a way of discouraging gun ownership in Namibia.
The move is part of the Gun Free Namibia campaign to rid Namibia of guns, most of which are used to commit violent crimes.
A gun-free zone is a place where firearms are not allowed, therefore a safe place for people to be.
The country is also reviewing its firearms legislation that will regulate the civilian possession of firearms.
On March 9, 2001, Namibia and other SADC countries concerned with the manufacturing, stockpiling of, trafficking in, possession and use of firearms especially used in the commission of violent crimes and their contribution to the high level of instability, declared they would review national legislation to prohibit the unrestricted civilian possession of small arms and the total prohibition of the possession and use of light weapons by civilians.
Alwine Awases, the vice-chair of Nangof Trust, said an environment characterised by gun crime was a deterrent to development, foreign investment and tourism development.
She said when she launched the Gun Free Project Namibia on Friday: “Our past and present demand that to save our nation from the evils committed by guns, we need well-coordinated efforts.”
“Recent incidences of violence in all its forms that have been reported continue to send shockwaves in our nation and call for drastic action to be taken,” she said.
The Breaking the Wall of Silence (BWS) is coordinating the Gun Free Namibia Project on behalf of Nangof Trust.
The project will among other objectives lobby policy-makers for amendments to the Arms and Ammunition Act of 1996, campaign for the establishment of gun-free zones at public places, discourage private ownership of guns and highlight the impact of gun-related crimes in the country.
Statistics show that from 2002 to 2006 close to 900 crimes were committed with guns. In the same period 317 murders were committed with guns of which the majority of victims were female. BWS’s Pauline Dempers said although it is said that Namibia needs guns because it is a hunting nation, “we are not only hunting wild animals but also women with these gun.”
According to law, one person can have as many as four guns. Dempers said there were loopholes in the legislation concerning the handling of personal guns, number of guns, inheritance of guns and the review of licences.
“Guns are easily accessible and they are fuelling domestic violence,” she said.
Namibia in 2004 established the Namibia National Focal Point of Small Arms Proliferation to implement the SADC Protocol on the Control of Firearms. The Focal Point is hosted by the Namibian Police and is chaired by Deputy Inspector General, Major General Tuwefeni M’lukeni, and comprises different role players such as civil society represented by the Nangof Trust, ministries of Defence, Security, Foreign Affairs, Environment and Tourism, Home Affairs and Immigration, Office of the President and the Polytechnic of Namibia.
However, limited funds have forced the project to restrict the awareness campaign to Windhoek.
Dempers said the campaign material needed to be translated into other vernacular languages for people to own the project.
The project started in South Africa and has now been replicated to Namibia, Malawi, and Lesotho. The Namibian project will run for six months.